Using biotechnology, USDA-ARS researchers have shut off the gene for a crucial protein that makes soybean seeds allergenic to some consumers.

This advance, researchers say, could shorten the list of products that soy-sensitive consumers often must avoid eating.

The protein P34 causes more than half of all soy-related allergies. Now, however, researchers Eliot Herman, Rick Helm and others have developed strains of soybean plants whose seed cannot make this allergenic protein. They used “gene silencing,” rather than conventional plant breeding because P34 is so widespread among both wild and cultivated soybean plants.

Herman, ARS plant physiologist, says this marks the first time a dominant human allergen has been eliminated from a major food crop by this method.

Research continues with hopes for clinical trials with humans.